Activity play – wot so funee?

Gone are the days that I have time to blog loads of funees from every week. But as we’ve had an early morning, I thought I’d blog one from each boy that we’ve had a giggle at this week…..

Andrew is looking forward to Christmas already. The build up has started at nursery, and he’s getting very involved in the festivities. Every day that he goes, he comes home and tells us all about which songs he’s been learning, and even gives us a quick rendition at the dinner table. These songs are all for the play that they’ll be putting on the week before Christmas. It’s one of the traditional plays for the time of year, where the children act out the happenings of the first Christmas – Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, animals, stable, shepherds, angels – you know what I mean. In Andrew’s mind they are practising the “activity play”. No matter how many times I say that it’s actually a nativity play, he insists on calling it the activity play. So this is what it shall henceforth be called in our house!

Joel’s best funee from this week also involves singing. Both boys are very into singing, and their musical Daddy says they are very good at it (I know, he’s biased). Joel still doesn’t say much, but he makes himself understood, and one day this week he made himself quite clear through the medium of song. He was getting under my feet in the kitchen while I was trying to make some lunch for us all, so Daddy decided to take him upstairs to the living room and let him watch a DVD for 5 minutes (that’s about as long as he’ll watch anything for). On the way up, Daddy asked him what he’d like to watch, not really expecting a reply, but it was something to say when Joel wasn’t too happy about being removed from the kitchen. However, Joel immediately started singing (in la-la-las) the Fireman Sam theme tune. Daddy put that on, asked him if that was what he wanted, and Joel let out a big resounding YES! Who says I need to talk?!

Wot So Funee?

Red submarine and nocular gifts – wot so funee?

I don’t seem to have noted down so many funee moment this week. I don’t think it’s because there were fewer, I think I just got out of the habit of writing lots down over the Easter break. But here’s what I have on offer from the hilarious world of a preschooler and his toddler brother this week….

Andrew has become quite interested in the various surfaces that cover the ground at playgrounds in parks. The ones near us are either sand or that squishy astroturf type stuff that’s soft to land on though gets everything covered in salt. But recently we visited a park a bit further away that has those dark brown bits of soft wood on the ground. Andrew asked what was on the floor, so we said that it was bark chipping. He took it in, and a few minutes later he declared that he liked the “bark chicken” on the floor.

When we were on holiday before Easter, we found ourselves in the inevitable National Trust gift shop. Until now, Andrew has always chosen a bouncy ball as his souvenir treat, particularly when Granny and Grandad are with us, because they started a mini tradition of buying him one at NT shops. But this time Andrew was rather taken by these weird rubbery neon creatures that were called caterpillars on the tag, but looked more like a millipede with lots of legs to us. So that’s what we called it. But all the consonants were a bit of a mouthful for Andrew – he finds ‘l’ quite hard still when there are other consonants to make in a word, it is a bit of a different sound to make in the mouth compared to others we have in English – so he decided to call it a “lilypede” whilst he tried to master the word millipede.

Andrew has a bit of a thing about having no clothes on at the moment – he loves it, and finds any excuse he can to shake them off and go bare. He also likes to run to the door whenever the bell goes, so a fair few postmen, delivery guys and general door knockers get a lovely surprise (enough to scare away any cold callers 😉 ) One of his excuses to start stripping clothes off is if they are at all wet, even just a few drops. And this is what happened one day when he was eating cereals for breakfast with just his pants and t-shirt on. I saw him starting to pull off the pants, so asked why. His response was a loud and indignant: “I just don’t like milk in my pants!!” Fair enough I guess, nobody likes milk in their pants now do they!

A while ago I blogged about the habit that he had gotten into of taking random things to bed with him. This phase passed at some point, but he still occasionally likes to pick up  objects that I don’t think of as particularly good bedtime hugging material. For example one morning this week I found him with 2 mini plastic golf flags from a toy golf set that he plays with outside. I have no idea how they came to be there!

Although Andrew’s speech is very understandable for his age, he still of course makes learner mistakes. Tricky tenses often catch him out, like when he explained that “I didn’t went through that door, I went through this door!” It makes perfect sense really, especially when ‘went’ was coming up in the next part of the sentence too. ‘Might’ can be tricky too, so earlier I heard him say “I might can do a standing-up wee” (he can do it, I think it was just that the toilet at the garden centre soft play was a bit too high for him).

Joel is starting to sign quite a bit now – his favourites are bird, aeroplane and Granny and Grandad. He’s understanding so much of what we say, even if he can’t say anything yet in speech. Of course we’re giving him lots of praise when he signs, and Andrew then points out that he can do the signs too. Of course you can Andrew, you’re 3 and can talk! He’s also taken to telling me what the French and/or German word is for what Joel is signing, to try and really impress me and get one up on lil’ bro 😉

And finally for this week, a random bit of speech that he just came out with the other day whilst we were eating breakfast together. He’d been sitting in silence, eating his Weetabix minis and looking like he was pondering something.

Andrew: When you grow up Mummy, you can have a red submarine

Me: Really?

Andrew: Yes, Grandad will buy it for you!

Me: Really?

Andrew: Yes, and we will buy a nocular for Grandad!

Me: Hmmm….right…..?!

Nocular is ‘binoculars’ by the way – he likes looking through Grandad’s and saw that you could buy them from one of Grandad’s bird watching magazines. And he’s into the Yellow Submarine at the moment, so I’m guessing the submarine reference is something to do with that. Young minds are hilarious!

Wot So Funee?

Shattered – word of the week

It’s easy for me to think of a world that describes this week:

Wotw shattered

Joel has been waking up in the night and sometimes not getting back off again, making for some very early mornings. He’s not been great at sleeping for a while but this week was particularly bad. So as a consequence we are both shattered. Andrew has also decided to well and truly drop his afternoon nap, after a few months of on and off daytime napping, so he is more tired than usual, although generally coping pretty well and sleeping well at night. All I can say is I’m glad it’s now the weekend!

I was very grateful when Granny and Grandad offered to have the monitor and get up with him on Friday night / early Saturday morning, so that I could feel refreshed enough to go back to Cambridge and give our flat a final clean before the sale is complete this week. He didn’t do too badly, just waking once at 5.30am, and then settling in their bed playing games and listening to music. Then this morning it was Daddy’s turn to offer to get up with him when he woke at 5.30am, so I managed to get two mornings of lie-in in a row. Again Joel seems to be absolutely fine without milk straight away, when I’m not there he doesn’t question it. And it’s given me a chance to catch up on my sleep deficit.

I’m now looking forward to the week ahead, feeling much less tired and ready to do lots of activities with the boys as well as some more sewing for my business. Let’s go!


The Reading Residence

Word of the week – venture

Words are something that I’m not normally short of – I can waffle on at length in both writing and speech, particularly on subjects that interest me (Tom says that I have an uncanny ability to steer a conversation onto cloth nappies from most starting points!) So when I heard about the Word of the Week linky over at the Reading Residence blog, I thought it would be nice to join in when I can.

This week my word is: venture

For a while I’ve been having lots of fun sewing practical things for my boys – nappies, wipes, wet bags, bibs, clothes etc. I love to be creative in this way, and I enjoy the time I have to myself when sewing, it’s always good to have a bit of me-time when the boys are asleep or with Daddy/Granny. I also love to create practical things rather than ornamental crafts, and I particularly like upcycling items made of fabric (like clothes and blankets) into something new and useful.

But there’s only so many things that my boys need, so recently I’ve been contemplating whether to set up a small business to sell what I make. In some ways it’s quite daunting – I’m not particularly business-minded, though Tom is willing to help me with the accounting side of things. But in other ways it’s exciting to have a go and see what happens – if you don’t try, you never know. I have lots of creative ideas for what I’d like to make, whether I have time to make them all is another matter, and I’d already thought up a name. There are still some of the more boring business bits to sort out, but this week I started a Facebook page displaying some of the things I’ve made so far, mainly to see if people are interested beyond the friends and family who have already expressed their interest.

Now you can see how one of the main things occupying my mind this week (other than the usual daily family tasks) has been my new venture: Sewn Down Purple Lane

SDPL logo white

SDPL facebook cover again.jpg


The Reading Residence


Baby books

As a child, I remember looking through the baby book that my parents had put together – a collection of photos and words from my early years, a kind of journal to remember things that we’d otherwise forget. I really enjoyed flicking through it, I was so interested in looking at what I was like as a baby.

When I was pregnant with Andrew, I knew that I wanted to do something similar, so that he could look back like I did. That was before I was blogging too, so the book would be the place where I would record facts and happenings from his first few years. We were kindly given a baby journal which had spaces to write specific things and stick pictures in. I was pretty good at remembering to fill it in when there was something interesting happening in his development, though I sometimes just noted it down and then later filled in a whole load of things in one go.

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Joel’s on the left, Andrew’s on the right

A little while ago, Andrew went through a phase of constantly picking his baby book off the shelf and looking through it at the photos. It took us a while to convince him that the baby in the pictures was him and not Joel – an interesting concept for a 2 year old looking at photos of his younger self.  Now he only does it occasionally, but I’m already glad that I started this book for him.

Then I had a second child, and we were given not one but two baby books. We gave the gender-neutral one to my niece who is 4 weeks older than Joel, and kept the blue one for him. The second time around has been different: on the one hand I’ve had less time to write in it and have only sat down a few times in 9 months to fill it in with words and photos, but on the other hand I’ve blogged about Joel’s early months which I didn’t with Andrew.

I like this family tree in pictures idea - I just need to cut out Grandma and Pop from a picture to complete their side of it.
I like this family tree in pictures idea – I just need to cut out Grandma and Pop from a picture to complete their side of it.

This week I’ve had a concerted effort to fill it in up to date. I got some photos printed and made time to write in it, which actually didn’t take too long in the end.

Have you done a baby book like this for your little one(s) if you have any?

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The page with hospital bands and the first ever picture of each of my boys 🙂

Our experience of babysigning (finally!)

At last I’m getting round to writing a post about babysigning. I guess by now I should really call it ‘toddlersigning’ as my baby is no longer a baby. Even though I’m a researcher in linguistics (with my PhD specifically in phonetics), I’d not heard of the concept of baby signing until I did a taster session at a baby and toddler group that Andrew and I used to go to when I was on maternity leave – the session was when he was about 4 months old. The lady who did the session runs a babysigning business in Cambridge (called Cambridge Babysigning), and I was so interested in what we did during the taster session that I went along to five classes (run by another tutor by then because she was on maternity leave) about this time last year, when Andrew was about 8 months old. We really enjoyed the classes, and we learnt lots of very useful signs. But not long after we did the classes I went back to work, and although I don’t work on the day of the classes, I found that it was quite a commitment to pay for ongoing classes when I wasn’t sure that we would definitely make it each week with fewer days to fit things in. I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m a linguist, and generally pick up languages relatively quickly, but I felt like I’d learnt enough in those five weeks, plus I bought a couple of books to reinforce what I’d learnt, that I’d got a good enough start to give it a go and use signs with Andrew on a daily basis.

Signing 'milk' at the farm whilst we were watching a cow being milked

I’m no expert on baby signing, but from what I heard at the classes and what I’ve read, the idea is that babies can use their hands to communicate much earlier than they can use their mouths to produce accurate speech sounds that we recognise as words: the motor skills involved in signing come earlier than the fine motor skills needed for saying words. The idea is not that they become reliant on their hands and therefore don’t ‘bother’ with speech, but rather the signing helps them bridge the gap between not speaking and speaking, so that they can communicate their needs and feelings before they develop accurate speech, without getting frustrated so easily. It’s not that you sign to them full sentences (like you would with a deaf person), but rather individual key words as you’re talking, and then they pick up these signs over time, and eventually use them themselves to communicate. You wouldn’t expect a child to start with full sentences in their speech development – if they say just ‘dog’ for example, it’s pretty clear from context that they’re saying something like ‘there’s a dog’ or ‘I’ve seen a dog’, or if they say ‘drink’, it’s pretty clear that they’re actually saying ‘I’d like a drink’. It’s the same for signing – if Andrew signs the word ‘milk’, for example, I know that he’d like some milk – he doesn’t have to sign ‘I’d like some milk’.

Signing 'cow' at the farm (one-handed here - it's a horn shape that he's doing with his right hand against his head - see picture below of me doing the sign)

So we started off using a few basic signs like ‘milk’, ‘food’, ‘drink’, ‘mummy’, ‘daddy’ when he was 8 months old. It’s recommended that you start with just a few key ones, and then gradually introduce more as they get the hang of signing themselves. He started to use the ‘milk’ one first, and that was around 12 months old. It varies as to how long each child picks up signing, just like any developmental step. I remember the lady who did the taster session saying that her daughter took quite a while to do her first sign, even though she’d had constant exposure to them from an early age, whereas other children in the class were quicker to use their first signs. But once she’d started, she was quick to use more and more – that kind of developmental pattern, where there’s nothing much for ages and then all of a sudden it all comes in a big rush, is seen in speech too. Over the next few months, Andrew picked up a few more, like ‘food’ and (these were the best for us) ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’ – he signed those words much sooner than he said them (he’s only just started saying them in the past few weeks).

Signing 'bird' at the farm. Index finger and thumb open and close together, mimicking a bird's beak opening and closing.

He’s also very keen on animal signs, like ‘cow’, ‘duck’, ‘bird’, ‘sheep’, all of which are accompanied by the appropriate noise (like ‘moo’ etc.). I think his favourite at the moment is ‘aeroplane’, which is still just the sign, no spoken word/noise attached to it; he signs that whenever he sees or even hears a plane (or even a motorbike or something that sounds like a plane to him!!) It was a trip to an airfield and a farm recently that inspired me to finally get round to finishing this post, which had been half-written for a while, because he did lots of very enthusiastic signing on that day out! Granny and Grandad are pleased that he can sign for them, as is Grandma, though all of them have the same sign (names are signed with the first letter, so in their case it’s all ‘G’), and he doesn’t need to do the sign for Pop (his fourth grandparent) because that’s easy enough for him to say, whereas the other three are trickier. To see some of these signs in action (both Andrew and I), here’s a link to a video of us doing some signing, as a video shows the signs much better than the photos in this post, which don’t capture the movement. This is particularly important for the aeroplane sign, his favourite, so here’s a link to a separate video for this, taken when we visited the airfield.

Andrew's favourite: aeroplane - this really is better with movement, as his hand was enthusiastically moving up and down and around, rather than just being held in the air as this photo suggests.

It’s interesting that, just like early speech, his signs are not exactly like we show him, but are near enough that we can understand. For example, ‘mummy’ is three fingers on your dominant (in my case, right) hand tapped twice against your forehead; Andrew rather more enthusiastically hits the side of his head with his whole palm, but I know that this means mummy, from when he first did it and continues to do it, now with ‘mumma’ attached. Some signs he’s very accurate at though, like bird, which is the thumb and index finger opening and closing together, to mimic a bird’s opening and closing beak. Below are some pictures of me doing some signs, so hopefully you can see the difference between my signs and his signs!

Here's me doing some signs in a photo booth for a competition at the BritMums conference that I went to back in June. Top left: cow; top right: dog; bottom left: cat; bottom right: sheep. Obviously still pictures are not as good for showing signs as a video. See the youtube link for a video showing some signs that Andrew knows.

Until Andrew actually started doing his first signs, I wasn’t sure whether what we were doing with signing was particularly useful. It took a few months to really appreciate that our effort had paid off. Once he started using them, it was obvious that this was a great way for him to communicate, and it hasn’t stopped him learning to speak words, if anything it’s helped him to make that connection between objects/actions and the word that goes with them. I think for us, it’s also been useful from the point of view of introducing more than one spoken language to him. For lots of objects/actions I’ve been telling him the English, French and German word, and by signing too, he can, I hope, make the connection that all four are related. This seems to be working so far at least. So I guess he’s really having quadrilingual rather than trilingual input! He’s not yet ready to say the word ‘aeroplane’ in any language it seems, but he’s totally obsessed with signing whenever he hears or sees one, many times every day – quite often I haven’t even heard it until he signs, because they are just in the background noise to me, whereas he seems to be particularly sensitive at spotting them. And when I ask him in any of the three spoken languages ‘where’s the aeroplane?’ (or any question involving ‘aeroplane’), he enthusiastically signs, showing that he’s made the connection between the three spoken words and the sign. Amazing!

A great way to use signs and reinforce them over and over again is by singing songs and signing along to them. I reckon that’s why he’s picked up the animal ones so quickly – because there are songs like Old MacDonald Had a Farm and other classics involving animals that we sing all the time at groups and at home, and I sign along whenever we do (even though I probably look slightly odd at groups where no other parent is signing – I’m a linguist, I’m totally up for having a go at languages even if I look silly, it’s the trying that counts!) It’s not all about singing though; I mean I don’t sing to him when it’s time for food! There are quite a few everyday signs like ‘food’, ‘drink’ and ‘nappy’ that I just use every time we do that word – which is quite often, as you can imagine.

Signing 'sheep' at the farm - he was circling his hand round and round by his head and saying baa baa at the same time

I’m very glad that we came across babysigning when we did, as I feel it has definitely been a positive, helpful and fun thing for all three of us, as well as other family members, to use. Andrew does sometimes get frustrated, like lots of toddlers, usually when he doesn’t get his way with something, but I think it could be a lot worse at 18 months because I’m sure there is less communication-related frustration than if we hadn’t signed. Of course I will never know for sure on this, but from our experience, I’d recommend giving it a go. With baby number 2, we’ll be signing around them from birth, so it will be interesting to see whether he/she picks things up quicker than Andrew did, or not. I guess second children have a different experience from first children with so many things, like speech and walking (because they have an older sibling to ‘copy’ and try and be like), and signing is just another example of this.

I get the feeling that babysigning is becoming more and more popular these days. Have you given it a go? How have you found it? What does your little one make of it so far? I’d love to hear from anyone who has used or intends to use it. I’ve heard that it can be particularly important for children with learning difficulties or special needs, so I’d be interested to hear more about it from that perspective. I hope what I’ve written is interesting and informative if you hadn’t heard of babysigning before. Like I said, I’m no expert, but would be happy to answer more specific questions about our experience if you have any.

Let the talking begin!

For over a month now, Andrew has been saying his very first words. According to the NHS ‘Birth to Five’ book, which gives average ages that children tend to reach milestones of development, this is at the later end of average for starting to talk. But as Andrew was an early walker (just before his 1st birthday), I wasn’t expecting that he would talk particularly early, because it’s often the case that babies and toddlers are early at gaining some skills and later at gaining others compared to their typically-developing peers. It’s like their brains seem to concentrate on one big thing to the detriment of other big things, until the first thing is sorted and then other things get a look in. I’ll give you a run through of his first words, and add some notes to each of them, sometimes referring to ‘techie’ terms – ones that I’ve learned through studying phonetics/linguistics – but hopefully explaining them well enough in everyday words too.

His first word was ‘bye-bye’, which he says something more like ‘ba-ba’, with a short ‘a’ instead of the double vowel (or ‘diphthong’ in techie speak) that I and other British English speaking adults use. His vowel here is slowly becoming more like mine compared to when he first said the word. This is a very useful word that gets used every morning when he waves to Daddy and/or me as we go to work, plus on other occasions like when we leave a group.

His second recognisable word was ‘ball’, which he says something more like ‘buh’, with no ‘l’ and a short vowel instead of the long vowel that adults use. But it clearly refers to ‘ball’, one of his favourite toys to play with wherever he is (including in the park when older kids are trying to have a game of football…) – I can tell because he consistently points to balls and says ‘buh’. He generally likes the sound ‘b’, as his ‘buh’ has now extended to also mean ‘balloon’ (which to be fair is pretty similar to a ball in shape) and ‘bird’. Again he will consistently point to these things and say ‘buh’, as well as using the sign (as in sign language) when he points to bird.

A ball or 'buh' - one of Andrew's favourite toys to play with, even if it's not his! (This one is his though)

The next few words came about the same time; I can’t really say in which particular order. The word he now says the most on a daily basis must be ‘car’, which he says with a consonant produced slightly further back in the mouth than adults do – what I would call a ‘uvular plosive’ (instead of a ‘velar plosive’), so it sounds a bit like the ‘guttural’ sounds we associate with French ‘r’ sounds or Swiss German or Arabic. Over time this will become more English-sounding, and in the meantime I think it’s great that he can naturally use sounds that native English-speaking adults find hard to produce because they don’t use them in English. He points and says the word ‘car’ constantly as we walk anywhere next to roads, as he plays with his toy garage, and as we read books featuring cars. In fact he says car for pretty much any vehicle with wheels! Buses, lorries, vans – all cars in Andrew’s world. Bikes or motorbikes don’t seem to get this treatment, but he doesn’t consistently come out with anything else for these. Of course I encourage him when he says ‘car’, and then I go on to specify what it is if it’s not actually a car. One day he’ll figure this all out, but for now this ‘overextension’ (as is the techie term) is a normal part of language development. The classic example is when children use the word ‘dog’ to mean any four-legged, furry animal. This phenomenon happens across languages, not just in English, so it seems to be a general part of language acquisition, though researchers haven’t quite figured out exactly why it happens. It does show, however, that children initially categorise objects rather than simply label them, and then work towards being more specific in their initial categories.

Our car, which he points out every time we leave the flat.

Another word that he uses a lot is ‘shoes’. He says this as something like ‘shuhz’, so you hear mainly the two consonant ‘sh’ and ‘z’ sounds (what I would call ‘fricatives’) with a very short kind of non-descript vowel in the middle (a high central vowel that adults don’t use in English). This word is very useful for him, because he uses ‘shoes’ as a signal to let us know that he wants to go out – he brings them to us, repeating the word ‘shoes’ several times until we put them on, and then goes and stands by the front door to show that he wants to go out. Of course this isn’t always appropriate (like when I’m still in my pyjamas having got him sorted but not myself!), but he does love putting his shoes on and going out. In fact he also likes putting our shoes on and attempting to walk around constantly repeating the word ‘shoes’…. not always successfully in the case of my 2-inch-heeled mules!

Two little but powerful words he likes to use are ‘yeah’ and ‘no’. He seems to use ‘yeah’ for everything from everyday questions like ‘shall we get you dressed?’ (not his favourite activity) to questions about things he’s really excited about, like’ would you like to go to the park?’. Both his ‘yeah’ and his ‘no’ are now very adult-like, though ‘no’ started of as something more like ‘doh’, in which the vowel was pretty accurate, but the consonant wasn’t very nasal. I knew he meant ‘no’ though, because it was always accompanied by a shake of the head and usually happened just after I’ve said no to him!

One of his most recent additions was flower – he came out with this at my cousin’s wedding after several people were pointing the pretty flowers out to him, and ever since he’s been able to point them out himself. His version doesn’t sound exactly like flower, it’s more like ‘wa-wa’, but it’s obvious that this is what he means as he points to one.

Some lovely flowers or 'wa-wa' that I got for my birthday from my work friends. Andrew points this out when he's sat at the table eating lunch or tea and they are at the other end of the table 🙂

Although animal sounds aren’t technically words, I would like to quickly mention that his favourite animals to point out are ‘cow’, ‘dog’ and ‘duck’ – which he calls ‘moo’ (somewhere between ‘moo’ and ‘boo’ actually), ‘urh urh’ (trying to say ‘woof woof’ but actually sounding more like a real bark than ‘woof’!) and ‘quack’ (more like ‘kack’). His productions of cow and duck (‘moo/boo’ and ‘kack’) are always accompanied by the sign language for each, which interestingly are also quite approximate compared to those that I make with my hands. I must write a post specifically on babysigning one day (I keep saying that and never get around to it….) For some reason he seems less bothered about making the dog sign with his bark. Although he doesn’t seem to overextend the word dog (as in the example I gave above), he does seem to overextend the word ‘moo’ – generally it refers to cows (we see them quite often on the fields near us), but he’s also used it for horse (which I think he’s just about picking up the sign for now, so using ‘moo’ less often) and elephant! So it seems it can apply to any big mammal.

Ducks or 'kack, kack' swimming under the bridge where we walk across the river a few times a week to go to various groups.

I’m not quite sure why, but he often makes a sound like ‘ts’ when pointing at things that he can’t yet say the word for. As he points, I of course say the word of the object he’s pointing at, and one day he’ll have heard it enough times and be able to produce the right sounds to say it himself. Generally he likes making sounds like ‘sh’ and ‘ssss’ (what I’d call ‘fricatives’ in techie speak) all over the place, when I can’t always tell if there’s something specific he’s trying to refer to.

For anyone who remembers me writing about trilingual adventures before, here’s an update on where I’m at with introducing French and German as well as English. I’m still saying three words (one in each language) to him as we sit and read through books or point out things around the house or when we’re out and about. More recently I’ve decided to have two ‘French’ days and two ‘German’ days a week when I’m with him all day (I’m at work for the other 2.5 days), when I speak the relevant language to him when it’s just the two of us. So today is a ‘German’ day, and as we’ve walked to the shops and to groups, I’ve talked to him in German, pointing out things along the way, or making general small talk (as you do, talking to your toddler who can’t talk back, much!) Lunch was ‘Mittagessen’ and I’ve changed his ‘Windel’ instead of nappy etc. So far he’s only producing English words (or words that sound like English words). BUT, he clearly understands a lot in French and German, given how he reacts when I talk to him in either language. For example, when I ask him ‘Wo ist das Auto?’ or ‘Ou est-elle, la voiture?’ (‘Where’s the car?’), he’ll point and say ‘car’ in answer to my question. Amazing! He does this with various things, not just cars. It’s so fascinating to see the fact that he’s picking up more than one language without even thinking about it.

This leads on to an interesting point about language acquisition: the fact that he can understand a lot more (in English) than he can currently say. I’m finding that I can say some quite complicated sentences, for example give him instructions to do something like bring me his ball or put his sun hat back on, and he consistently does what I ask of him. If Tom and I are talking between us, not directly with him, and we happen to mention in passing something that he recognises, he’ll react to the word he’s heard in our speech, for example if we mentioned a dog, he’ll suddenly woof, even though we weren’t really aware he was listening to us. This has made me realise that I have to be careful now what I say. I hope that in general what I say is suitable for a toddler to hear and make sense of, but we all have days when we react and say something we wish we hadn’t – that’s the kind of thing I can just tell he’ll now pick up instantly!

I think I’ll leave this account of Andrew’s language acquisition journey here for now, but of course there’ll be much more to share over the coming months and years. You can probably tell, given my background in linguistics, that I find this all fascinating. Since Andrew was a baby, I’ve been recording him ‘talking’ – obviously this started of with baby sounds like gurgling and cooing, then babbling, and now some actual words (although capturing words on the recording is pretty difficult, because he’s aware of the recorder and then doesn’t produce them on cue like he would if it was just the two of us playing together – Observer’s Paradox, as Labov would say). These recordings are all waiting for me to sift through them and do anything specific with them – one day, if I ever get time to do that kind of thing. For now, just writing about what’s going on is interesting enough in my opinion.